Leadership and what influences it
May 31st, 2009Dry spell in the blogging department. It has been a time for me to evaluate this blogging business as it is tricky given the fact that this IS the GRCF website and whatever I write is definitely a reflection on the Foundation. I love this Foundation! How can you not? What a privilege and an honor as trust is formed between the community and this Foundation. After 22+ plus years of holding the position of president, I certainly am not going to tarnish it. Nor are any of us who manage the GRCF Twitter account going to tarnish it - just want to update anyone who is interested on the key things that are going on with the Foundation.
That all said I do believe that there may be some hesitancy for some leaders in the foundation world who are concerned about how their words may shape opinions about the foundations they lead. However, not revealing ideas, opinions, or stepping into the "scary" realm of having every word scrutinized is just as dangerous. People need to have an idea of how foundations are run and the thoughts that help shape them. Thus, how decisions are made that are significant in terms of individual organizations or in some cases, for the entire community.
I do admit to holding back on some ideas as they do need vetting with those who govern the Foundation prior to making them public. I am also cognizant that my blog may not receive the "traffic" on our website that other sections may and that while many do read my words, many in our area could frankly care less.
Leadership has been on my mind for the past few weeks and how people view the "actions/behaviors" of leadership. I still experience a sense of being discounted even after all these years based on my gender. I still observe how others may view various businesses and organizations and how the person who is at the helm leading the charge may shape the perception of that business/organization.
Be aware that I am not a person who obsesses one iota about gender bias as it relates to me. That is the problem of the person who exercises that bias. However, when I read the words of younger women who are in their 20's and 30's try to explain their experiences of leadership on Twitter and Facebook, I read the words that a younger Diana Sieger would have written who was experiencing similar things BUT back in the 70s and 80s!
So have things changed? I'm examining it and experiencing it . . . more later!
Cynicism will slow us down!
May 3rd, 2009This is a longer entry than usual but worth the time!
People who know me well know that I exercise a healthy dose of skepticism when dealing with issues and occasionally I travel down the path of cynicism. I do have a dry sense of humor and I just want it known that I am aware of these traits before this blog entry is read leaving some to shake their heads wondering what has come over me. Some of my staff know that I am growing increasingly weary though of excessive cynicism. There needs to be some trust left on this planet to know that when an idea is thrown into the mix that it deserves consideration and not summarily thrown out.
I will say though that when I am approached by people pitching ideas my antenna do go up when I wonder who is behind the "idea" and what do they ultimately want from The Foundation in addition to the obvious which is funding. This usually occurs when it is not clear who is really doing the promoting.
We all learned a few weeks ago that a big announcement was going to be made that would transform how GR would be perceived and would literally rock the world with the power of the idea. Armed with a dose of Sieger skepticism and cynicism, I awaited the news expecting that it would be the usual hype promoting someone or over promising something.
As the date of the announcement was drawing closer, I read various tweets on Twitter from local artists whom I admire and respect a great deal. These tweets were teasers about the big announcement and while I still had no idea what it was, I tempered my view about what was coming because I so respect these wonderful folks. A confession: I am a lover of art and love our local artists whose work are displayed both in my home and in my office. I am certainly no artist BUT I am not intimidated by what "experts" call important art. I know what I like and that is all that matters and our local artists do create important and great art! While I am not fond of opera as some of my friends will attest, I still am a huge fan of Opera Grand Rapids because of its importance in keeping our area vibrant and attracting audiences who do appreciate it! In other words, all forms of art are so critical to our very being - be it performance art, the visual arts, a beautiful symphony, a piece of jazz that feeds my soul - whatever!
So it was with a more open mind that I awaited the announcement which was to occur at an event on the morning of Thursday, April 23rd by Rick DeVos. I was not able to attend as The Foundation was hosting a Spring Philanthropy Forum with Tom Rogerson, a wealth manager and great speaker, from Bank of New York Mellon! There were two events connected with the forum - the first was a breakfast with professional advisors and then a luncheon program for our donors and prospects. More on this event can be found on our website. I learned about the ArtPrize later that morning and as I greeted our luncheon guests, it was obvious that many people were energized by the news and the possibilities that this arts competition could garner!
I dug through all the news later that day and read how thrilled many people were particularly the artists I follow on Facebook and Twitter! And these people are not pushovers by a long shot! I watched a video that Andy Dragt produced interviewing Rick DeVos, tuned in to an interview with writer/artist Tommy Allen relaying his excitement on local TV news, and was advised by photographer and artist Brian Kelly to not be deterred by the negative comments that inevitably emerged as the hours and days followed after the news hit the streets! Ghastly comments they were!
Reading the Thursday, April 23rd issue of Rapid Growth (RG) was a joy as I was able to view Andy's video. In the following week's edition of RG, Tommy Allen wrote in his G-Sync column words that caught my eye regarding the reaction to the ArtPrize and its importance to Grand Rapids and to artists around the globe. He wrote, "The key is not to be a Monday morning quarterback, but a real player. Judging by the chatter, the playing field is about to become massive."
For those who read this blog from outside of Grand Rapids, it is worth your time to review the ArtPrize link above and here. The website describes this effort as the following:
A radically open art competition, giving away the world's largest art prize. Part arts festival, part social experiment - this international art contest is decided solely on a public vote. Call for entries ends July 31, 2009. Art festival begins Sept. 23, 2009. Come and see.
The entire process is detailed on the website with the handsome sum of $250,000 to be given to the artist whose work is viewed as the best based on public vote. Other financial prizes are to be awarded as well. This is being funded by the family foundation led by Dick and Betsy DeVos who are Rick's parents.
My observation is just this: give this a chance! Watching Rick on West Michigan Week on WGVU-TV, I was impressed by his answers, his demeanor and his humility. We are building a dream and all that is needed is an open mind and a chance to let that dream unfold. Skepticism is an important filter at times. However in this case I think the ArtPrize is worth a shot and let's see where it lands. Hey why NOT?????
Criticism has been leveled by the "establishment" of the art community outside of Grand Rapids and was addressed by Brian Sherwin the Senior Editor of myartspace.com. Here is an excerpt from his blog: "My opinion is that the critics of this competition are stuck in the past and fear change. They fear the same public that they strive to reach out to with their art criticism and exhibit reviews. They don't want the flood gates of the art world to be opened to the public-- while at the same time it is common for these same individuals to complain about how the general public is not interested in art. It is obvious that they want the 'system' to change-- on their terms."
The ArtPrize will help bring attention to our area to inspire innovation. Certainly when GRCF provided $500,000 to InnovationWorks of Right Place, Inc back in October 2008, we took a chance that this program can provide the needed inspiration for entrepreneurs and inventors to stay in West Michigan and develop new businesses and industries. We need to just take action and frankly doing nothing will garner us exactly that. Now is not the time for over planning and being risk averse.
But then just so you know, my filters are not turned off totally! Here's to a more promising future for our community!